"Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Col 3.2)
The mind concentrated
The apostle wants us to go further, however, and actively set our minds on the things that are above. It is one thing to have the goal of seeking the things above, it is quite another to concentrate the mind on them in a positive way, which is what "set your affection" means. The children of Israel had Canaan as their goal during their wilderness journey, so they could be said to be seeking it, but then under Joshuas leadership they actually occupied the land, and it was before their minds all the time.
The AV, by translating as it does, serves to highlight the fact that we shall only mind the things above if we have affection for the One who sits at the right hand of God. This is not an emotional exercise, however, but a deliberate intention to concentrate our minds on divine things.
The expression "things on the earth" may be looked at in two ways. In an evil sense they involve the teachings of the Judaisers and Gnostics whose range, despite their high pretensions, was only the earth, having to do with the speculations and traditions of natural men. In a good sense things on the earth are the legitimate affairs of believers in everyday life. The apostle is not saying we should neglect these, but rather that our priority should be the heavenly things we have been brought into. When we have our priorities in order, then we shall find that our earthly duties are done the more for His glory. So, for instance, in Colossians 3.24 the apostle can assure Christian slaves that they serve the Lord Christ as they serve their earthly masters. Perhaps we have forgotten the concept of everyday tasks, whether the home-duties of the sisters, or the employment-duties of the brothers, being service for the Lord - but such they are.
The "things above" of which the apostle writes would be that spiritual inheritance that is detailed for us in Ephesians 1. Every spiritual blessing is possessed by every believer and is there to be enjoyed.
"For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col 3.3)
A hidden life
The apostle now gives us the logical reasons why such a course of conduct is appropriate for the believer. The death of Christ has become our death, for we can say with the apostle, "I am crucified with Christ" (Gal 2.20). As dead men we are cut off from life on the earth. The life we now have is not one that is occupied with earth at all, although it does not neglect earthly duties, as we have said. It is a hidden life, and it is hidden in heaven, for it is hidden with Christ and He is in heaven. The Gnostics made great claims about knowing mysteries and secrets, but here is a secret they knew nothing of, for it is hidden in a sphere far beyond their reach as unbelievers.
We should be clear as to how the apostle is using the word "life" in this passage. It is undoubtedly true that believers possess eternal life, for they are born of God. That life is in them, therefore. Here, however, the apostle is saying that their life is in heaven. He is speaking of life as to where it is lived, and what it is lived for. Just as an unsaved wife might say of her unsaved husband that "He lives for his golf, thats his life", so believers have but one object in living, if they are true to their calling, and that is to be occupied with the interests of Christ and God. And since Christ is hidden in heaven, their life, the thing that absorbs them, is in heaven too. The apostles own testimony was, "For to me to live is Christ" (Phil 1.21).
Not only is our life hidden with Christ who is in heaven, but it is also hid in God. It is not to be found in the religion of either Judaiser or Gnostic, but in the very heart of God. As we develop in the knowledge of God, so also we develop in knowledge of the secrets pertaining to this hidden life, and are enabled to live it more intelligently.
"When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Col 3.4)
Manifestation with Christ
For the present, our life involves a total occupation with heavenly things, because there is nothing on the earth which is in harmony with God. When Christ comes to put that right then it will be appropriate for us to come with Him and have an interest in things on the earth. Christ is coming in glory, and that will change everything. But He is coming to judge things which happen on the earth, and we shall come with Him. How inconsistent for us to be engaging in those things which one day we shall come with Christ to judge!
We should notice that if we are to come with Him to reign, that supposes that we shall have previously been taken to be with Him in heaven. We shall have glorified bodies when we come, for we shall not come as disembodied spirits, and so it is not a time of resurrection for us when we come with Him, for that will have taken place previously, when He comes into the air for us (1 Thess 4.13-18).
Mortify your members
The apostle reminds us in v.5 that we have members (of our bodies) on the earth, in the place of danger and temptation, which could be used to practise sin and shame. We should mortify them, or put them to death. Not in any literal sense of course, but reckoning any member of our body which seeks to sin to be dead. The Lord Jesus used a similar figure when He spoke of cutting off a hand or a foot, or plucking out an eye if it threatened to do something contrary to the laws of the Kingdom of God (Mk 9.43-50). He quotes in v.49 from Leviticus 2 which details the offering that speaks of the consecrated life of Christ even unto death. His was a life totally free from actions and intentions contrary to the Kingdom of God.
We mortify things because we want to act in practice in line with the principle God has made known to us. That principle is that He has reckoned us as having died with Christ. We have reckoned that too, expressing it in baptism. But we need to go further than reckoning ourselves dead, and cast off the characteristics of the old man and put on those features which we find so perfectly expressed in Christ.
Renewed in knowledge
As we learn more of what He is, we shall be renewed in knowledge after Gods image for Christ is the ideal image of God (Col 1.15; 2 Cor 4.4). In this way the desire of God that He should have men who represent and reproduce Him will be realised. But we cannot do it in our own strength but only as we remember that Christ is all (Col 3.11), filling the horizon with His glory and, by His Spirit, is in all of His people that they might glorify God by representing Him. We shall do this in the measure we make Him our all. The parallel passage to this (Eph 4.17-32) tells us that truth is in Jesus. If we would see a life lived in harmony with heaven, we shall see it in Him as He walked on earth. One day we shall be perfectly conformed to the image of Gods Son (Rom 8.29). Then we shall reach the perfect man, "the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph 4.13). Let us strive for that goal even now with energy and enthusiasm, to Gods glory.
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